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by Daniel DeGasperi

Nissan has withdrawn its bold target of becoming the top selling full-line importer in Australia, with “sustained growth” the revised focus.

Speaking at the Australian media launch of the all-new Nissan Patrol, Nissan general manager of marketing Peter Clissold said the top-importer targets set by former-CEO, and now vice president of finance for Nissan Europe, Dan Thompson, did not reflect the goals of the current team.

“I know a lot has been said about that… [but] we’re just aiming to grow, year on year.

“Accolades like number one importer, or number four, five or six in the marketplace, those are going to be just outputs.”

Asked directly whether becoming the number one full-line importer in this country was a target for Nissan Australia, Clissold replied “no”. Pushed as to why previous Nissan management would have made the bold claim, Clissold said “I don’t know” while reinforcing the goals of the current management team.

“Continued growth is what we’re after. Bill Peffer [current Nissan CEO – below] said that.

“We’re not going to put pegs in the sand.”

In March 2012, then-CEO Thompson was adamant that Nissan could become the number one import-only car company in Australia within a year, with around 15,000 sales then-required to beat first-placed Mazda.

“We would’ve had 75,000 [vehicles sold for financial year 2011] if not for natural disasters. We are going to take share from Hyundai and Mazda with Pulsar,” asserted Thompson last March.

“We have always tracked how the top 10 brands performed or have performed over the last four-year period. I’d say six of the top 10 brands have gone backwards quite significantly. It’s only really us, Hyundai, Volkswagen and Mazda that have seen significant progress over the last four years.”

Thompson was replaced by current Nissan Australia managing director and CEO Bill Peffer in April 2012, however even in October last year, Peffer said that he was still committed to making Nissan the number one importer.

Contrary to the suggestion by Thompson that Nissan would take the top importer spot with ease, Clissold painted a more difficult picture for Nissan’s path ahead.

“Continuous year on year growth … it’s not a given.

“You’ve got to do it right; the dealers have to come along with you, the products have to be right, [and] the marketing…

“We want new vehicles like Pulsar, and like Patrol, to be incremental to our dealer’s business and not just substitutional.

“They’ve done a great job this year, we’re on track for 84,259 for the fiscal year [2012] which is a huge number compared with previous years.”

In the first month of 2013, Nissan was the second most popular full-line importer in Australia, securing 7248 sales, 1664 behind first-placed Mazda. Nissan has, however, narrowed the gap to Mazda substansially compared with January 2012, raising its sales volume by 35.3 per cent compared with Mazda’s 5.1 per cent lift.

Nissan Australia is planning launch 12 new models by 2015, four of which will appear in this calendar year. In addition to the Pulsar launched last week, and the Patrol launched this week, Nissan will add the Juke sub-compact SUV (below) to its line-up in May, with the Altima mid-sized sedan and all-new Pathfinder mid-sized SUV set to debut “within weeks of each other” in October, according to Peffer.